Remarks not made to school board

Friday, March 11, 2005

Several of you have asked me to share the comments I was not allowed to make to the school board last night. It’s benign stuff but in the spirit of spreading what I believe are our “distinctives” I offer my remarks:

My name is Ross Reller. I have been your neighbor in Pike for over 20 years. I am a customer with a son at Pike High School. Although not a historian, I owe my interest in Indiana history to an Earlham College education and to two years working at their museum, Conner Prairie, after graduation.

The History of Traders Point is rich, diverse and ongoing. Attached is a brief and incomplete chronological history of the Traders Point area.

Pike Township was platted in 1822. 8 land patents were sold that year totaling 880 acres. All of these patents were alongside Eagle Creek. (Between 38th Street and 86th Street). The first (and most significant) of these is where Lafayette Road crosses Eagle Creek. Lafayette Road was the first road through the township although it was not surveyed and constructed until 1831.

This first patent is historic because it was sold to William Conner, a Hamilton County trader, real estate speculator, and friend to the Indians. Conner established a trading post on the White River in Hamilton County. He either chose the Eagle Creek site to establish a trading post or because he knew it already was one. Moore Road and Lafayette Road appear to predate the platting of roads in 1822. They are neither straight nor parallel perhaps because they were Indian trails. (By the late 1800s Lafayette Road was a bustling state highway and Traders Point was a small town that would flood whenever Eagle Creek overflowed its banks.) Traders Point may be the most historic part of Pike Township.

Prior to and during the Great Depression, the Traders Point/Eagle Creek area attracted many of the city’s leaders of commerce and industry. They established hunting cabins, lodges and residences in the Eagle Creek area near the tiny town of Traders Point. Many of these have been preserved and are in good condition between Eagle Creek and Moore Road. There are a surprising number of historical figures from this Golden Age in our city’s history that lived or vacationed in the Traders Point area such as Merchant William H. Block, Industrialist Bowman Elder, civic leader William Fortune, Ad executive and author Guernsey Van Riper Jr., Photographer Noble Bretzman, and industrialist Andre Lacy that have direct descendants in the Traders Point/Moore Road area today. Mr. Eli Lilly bought and operated dairy farms and nurseries in the area during the Depression that would later form the nucleus for Eagle Creek Reservoir and Park.

The third generation of early 20th century businessman Bowman Elder resides on Moore Road and remains active in farming today. Heirs have the distinction of running both the oldest dairy in Marion County at Traders Point Farms on Moore Road south of 86th Street and one of the newest organic dairies in the United States on Moore Road north of 86th Street. Direct descendants of William Fortune, who founded the city’s first chamber of commerce, also own property in Pike Township and reside in the area.

In closing: The Traders Point area, unlike the more typical Indiana flat land near it, remains pastoral with very low density residential housing. The serene country landscape and the historic properties that remain are seldom found in such close proximity to a major metropolitan area. The winding country roads of Moore and Lafayette were probably once Indian trails.

Traders Point is a rare and unprotected gem of history nestled inside a concrete triangle of interstate highway.

The recent recognition by neighbors of the area’s rich history, and a desire to hold on to what is worth preserving, should be commended and encouraged.


About Ross Reller

I am pleased you have expressed interest in learning more about the historic Traders Point area in Indianapolis, Indiana. From 1980 to 1982 I was employed in the PR department at Conner Prairie Museum in Hamilton County. There I learned about William Conner, an important figure in Indiana's pioneer days. A decade later I became interested in the history of the Traders Point area and was surprised to learn that William Conner had been the first land owner in the area. In 1823 he acquired, through the Federal land office in Brookville, a patent for an 80 acre tract carved by Eagle Creek and an Indian trail that was about to be named the first toll roadway through the township (Lafayette Road). Thirty years later a village took shape within this tract. A grain mill on the creek, houses, churches, stores, restaurants, and two gas stations would take shape here in the creek valley hamlet of Traders Point. By 1962 all improvements (except a farmer's co-op) had been removed by the Indianapolis Flood Control Board to make way for Interstate 65 and a new reservoir. This blog is dedicated to preserving evidence of this historic area but I will occasionally use it to discuss related topics. To activate this follow, simply click the confirm button below. If you don't want to follow, ignore this message and we'll never bother you again. I am also a member of the Old Pleasant Hill Cemetery, a non profit association still selling burial plots for those who would like to spend all eternity in Traders Point, and I am an officer in the Pike Township Historical Society and the Traders Point Association of Neighborhoods.
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